At a public state memorial held to recognise the devastating toll of the unprecedented bushfires that ripped through NSW, six pairs of boots were carried through a guard of honour and placed along the stage.
Each pair representing one of the six firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.
NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said each death serves as a tragic reminder of the horror summer.
"Each one of those is a story of grief, of profound loss, and great sadness, of lives cut short, and of families being changed forever," he told the large crowd.
"To the families and loved ones of those that have been lost, and who are here today, we know your hearts have been broken over recent months and we are truly blessed that you've made the effort to be here today," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
RFS Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, died on December 19 when a tree hit their tanker.
Volunteer firefighter and expectant father Samuel McPaul, 28, was killed when the truck he and his crew were travelling in flipped over on December 30.
Three United States firefighters also died tragically when their water-bombing aircraft crashed while fighting bushfires in the Snowy Mountains region of NSW.
Captain Ian McBeth, 44, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr, 43 lost their lives on January 24.
"They were selfless individuals, paying the ultimate price while simply serving and protecting others in their local community and communities much further afield," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
As the wives and families of the deceased firefighters entered the memorial through the same guard of honour, incredible pictures captures the moment toddlers Harvey Keaton and Charlotte O'Dwyer, who both lost their fathers, shared a teddy bear.
After, Melissa O’Dwyer was seen kissing a photo of her late husband as she shared a moment with their young daughter.
Mr Demorgan's wife Rebekah, who travelled to the service from the United States with her two children, said the support and love she had received was "phenomenal".
Family members of victims placed flowers and were invited to light 25 candles, each representing a firefighter or resident killed in the 2019/2020 horror season.
Beginning to heal
The scars remain but traumatised communities are starting to heal.
Firefighting crews from across the state were among the hundreds of people who travelled to Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena for the memorial.
Australian artist Delta Goodrem performed an emotional rendition of ‘Let It Rain’ to the crowd.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of a black summer underscored by unrelenting grief.
"In every case, our firefighters confronted the fire by relying on the love that was behind them," he said.
"We've lost firefighters, aviators, farmers, and civilians alike this summer. All carried within them, even until the end, the DNA of our universal language - I love you."
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the work of those battling the bushfires was awe-inspiring.
"As our state faced massive threat to life and property, brave people went out to face the danger head on and they did not flinch," she said.
"Fatigued, traumatised and overwhelmed, they kept coming back, day after day, week after week, and month after month."
Dunmore RFS brigade deputy captain Ian Cox travelled to the memorial from Illawarra as a sign of solidarity with other crews.
"We are here out of respect for those that lost their lives," he said.
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